THE WEST Limerick and North Kerry area has been given a glimpse of the “huge potential” that agri-tourism represents thanks to a Limerick Chamber seminar in Newcastle West on the opportunities that the sector offers.
Locally based Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, sponsors AIB and one of the key drivers of an innovative Co Cork agri-tourism partnership were on hand to deliver insights to chamber members and non-members at the event held at the Longcourt House Hotel.
The attendees heard about the potential for the industry in the area, not least arising from the growing visitor numbers to the Wild Atlantic Way, and how visitors are looking for exactly the type of experience that can be offered at agri-tourism enterprises around West Limerick.
Opening the event, Minister Patrick O’Donovan said West Limerick was uniquely placed to reap the benefits of investment in agri-tourism. “Here in Limerick, we have three of the busiest national primary and national secondary roads in the country. And what we want to try and do is exploit them. It’s about trying to get people to stop and, more importantly, trying to get them to spend money and time. So there is an investment by the government into a number of initiatives here and we hope that together with local investment it will pay off.
“This seminar was an opportunity for people locally that have an interest in the tourism industry or those also involved in agriculture that might be seeking to divest into a new area. The event delivered key the experiences and expertise of Fáilte Ireland and the testimony of people that are actually doing this in other parts of the country, how they went about it and the supports they received, from the state or otherwise,” he said.
CEO of Limerick Chamber Dee Ryan, said West Limerick’s proximity to the Wild Atlantic Way puts it in poll position to capitalise from tourism.
“The concept of the event was to give business owners in the area an idea of what else they might capitalise on. Agriculture and tourism are the two biggest drivers for the economy here in West Limerick/North Kerry. There are great supports for tourism around the country at the moment, particularly with the success of the Wild Atlantic Way.
“There’s an awful lot happening in the region that people in the Hospitality and Retail sector and in the agricultural community could potentially harness. And what we’d love to see develop from today for the local community to take forward is a farm experience loop off the Wild Atlantic Way, developed in west Limerick.”
Delegates also heard from Michael Crowley who together with a group of local farmers in West Cork set up West Cork Farm Tours.
“I’m one of five farmers that are involved in West Cork Farm Tours. There’s a beef farmer, an organic pig farmer and three dairy farmers. We were overwhelmed with interest.
“We take it for granted every day that what we do on a farm is normal. But the amount of people that are in the world that don’t know exactly what’s on a farm, they don’t know about the green grass. People that never wore wellies before and you’d have it up on Instagram straightaway. The sheer freedom to walk a farm, to see the care we take in in a producing milk and food. It blows their minds away. I think there is huge potential.
“And if we can get people, that few people extra to stop, if we can be one little cog in helping the community, well, so be it. I think we will be after doing our bit to keep rural Ireland alive.”
Margaret Jenkins, Manager for The Wild Atlantic Way, Galway, Clare and Limerick said: “The Wild Atlantic Way has been hugely successful since it was launched in 2014. Our focus now is on driving tourism growth in lesser known regions to create revenue and jobs for local communities and businesses and the agri-tourism sector provides a real opportunity to do this. Part of our strategy is developing brilliant visitor experiences that can attract international visitors and we know that, in particular, some of our emerging markets such as China, are motivated to travel by dramatic landscapes, fresh air, local food (seafood in particular) and farm visits, all of which we have in abundance in West Limerick.”
Alan Waters, Head of Hospitality & Tourism, Retail & Business Banking at AIB, who sponsored the event said the time is right to develop the tourism offering in west Limerick. “It is becoming increasingly evident that tourists are open to venturing out of the main tourist hubs of Dublin, Galway and Cork and into other regional locations. We need to complement the new improved infrastructure and motorways in place to ensure there is a reason to travel more regionally. This can be achieved through new good quality experiences such as Agri Tourism ventures that complement the existing attractions and experiences Ireland is renowned for.”